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Saturday, December 19, 2015 

Did Marvel really need Star Wars to save themselves in the late 1970s?

That's what IO9's Gizmodo section wants everybody to believe, though I honestly think they're greatly exaggerating:
The release of Star Wars in 1977 was an absolute gamechanger, on so many levels—from effects, to toys, and to how expanded universes were created in general. But Star Wars was also of vital importance to an unexpected ally in Marvel Comics. Without the galaxy far, far, away, they might have vanished for good.

In the mid-1970s, Marvel was in trouble. After its success in the ‘60s, creating hits like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and countless others, Marvel had grown too quickly, too fast. General sales of comics across the industry were down, and something was about to give.
And somebody's over-dramatizing. Yes, sales at the time were not all they could've been, but most of the titles they published still did well enough, even if they only came out on a bi-monthly basis, and some had just 18 pages of story. Admitted, it does hint that sales of comics, sad as it is to think about, were already declining by the 70s to less than a million for some titles. Yet I don't buy into the notion that Marvel grew too quick, since they'd already begun their way in 1939 as Timely Publications.
At the same time, Star Wars was a film that seemingly no one believed in, including Marvel. When George Lucas was first shopping around potential novelizations and comic adaptations of his upcoming movie in 1975, publisher Stan Lee was adamant that scifi comics sold poorly, as did licensed comics. When the industry was already hurting, why take a risk on this unknown movie?
I'm not sure what they're telling about Lee here, but this is ridiculous. They were already publishing sci-fi comics in the form of superhero and vigilante adventures! The Avengers, FF and Silver Surfer did space travel many times. Where does the writer of this overblown claim get off putting words in Lee's mouth? It's laughable to say sci-fi comics didn't sell, when they obviously did. The Avengers and FF were still doing well enough at the time, as were Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk and X-Men.

But, this does tell something interesting about what happened after Roy Thomas and company tried telling their own stories not based on the movie proper:
The company turned to the roguish background of Han Solo for refuge, starting with “Eight Against a World!” in Star Wars #8. It was an adventure all about the smugglers and scoundrels of the world that Han had called his former allies before joining the Rebellion, as he rejoined them to fight space pirates. One of these smugglers in particular actually managed to draw the ire of Lucas: Jaxxon, a smooth-talking humanoid neon green rabbit created by Thomas and Chaykin who did martial arts and dressed like a Flash Gordon extra. Lucas, through Lippincott, raged at the character’s existence, and Jaxxon was rapidly phased out.
And yet 2 decades later, Lucas would create Jar-Jar Binks, the comedy relief alien co-star whom not all fans were fond of, because they didn't find the sense of humor appealing (kind of the like how they were disappointed with the Ewoks, who defeated Stormtroopers all too easily in Return of the Jedi). Lucas honestly overreacted, and come to think of it, any fans who reacted nastily to Jar-Jar did no better, because they were putting their frustration in all the wrong places. As disappointing as the rendition might've been, it's not the character's fault, although it is that of the actor and screenwriter Lucas for failing to make his comedy effects more palatable. But that should explain why Lucas and company would've done better by not objecting to Jaxxon so much as how he was characterized, comedic or not. He may not have been Bugs Bunny, but neither was he the same kind of bunny business.

Now, as for the latest movie in the series, Force Awakens, I hope it does well, but I also wish screenwriters and fans would stop damning fictional characters alone, and just complain about the actors and writer's talents. These cheapjack shots at the characters are dumbing down critical perspectives and making fandom out to look like fools. We can't afford it anymore. It's ruining a lot of entertainment with potential.

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NerdSync gave the same accounting.


It's possible that licensed comics back then weren't doing as good as they used or do today.

When Stan said that science fiction comics didn't sell, he may have been talking about non-superhero, non-series comics. By 1970, most science fiction and fantasy comics (DC's Mystery In Space, Marvel's Tales of Suspense, Journey Into Mystery, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish) had either been cancelled or had changed their formats (and their titles) from sci-fi anthology to superhero series.

And comic book sales were probably lower in 1977 than in the 1960's and earlier, but Marvel was far from tottering on the brink. The idea that they needed Star Wars to bail them out is ridiculous.

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